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Interprofessional Education: Learning to Value the Differences

Posted: Jan. 9, 2018

Students from Nursing, Pharmacy, Medicine and Social Work
collaborate on a patient case.

In order to improve patient outcomes and enhance the experience of care amid unprecedented health care challenges, future health care professionals must learn how to work seamlessly with the people they care for as well as the people who care with them at the bedside, in the clinic, and in the community.

To prepare nurses and other health care providers to provide team-based care, the UT Austin School of Nursing and other health profession schools and colleges on campus implemented interprofessional education (IPE) into the curriculum almost four years ago. Since then, students have learned to communicate better with one another and understand where their jobs intersect.

“When we envisioned incorporating IPE into our curriculum as a required course, we knew collaboration was key to delivering the safe, high-quality, accessible, person-centered care that we all want,” said Gayle Timmerman, PhD, RN, CNS, FNAP, FAAN, and associate dean for academic affairs at the School of Nursing. “Now that the vision has become reality, we need to ensure that our respective health professions students build on these competencies so that they enter the workforce ready to work effectively as part of a heath care team.”

The first Foundations for Interprofessional Collaborative Practice course was held in fall 2016. The course was three years in the planning and provided students with opportunities to work in interprofessional teams to master the collaborative practice competencies. The first class comprised 260 students and 45 trained faculty team facilitators from nursing, pharmacy, medicine and social work. The course continued in the spring 2017 semester and focused on students demonstrating their proficiency in interprofessional collaboration as they worked together in the simulation labs at the School of Nursing for the first time. The Foundations for Interprofessional Collaborative Practice course is offered annually at the School of Nursing.

“Today’s focus on quality patient outcomes and safety calls for a commitment from all health disciplines to work together,” said John Luk, M.D., and assistant dean of Interprofessional Integration at Dell Medical School. “We’re very fortunate at UT Austin to have a cadre of deans, faculty and staff who are working tirelessly to develop this exceptional IPE program. We say we want to re-think everything about how health care is delivered, and this program is one of the best ways we can do that.”

“Our goal has always been to transform health care,” said Timmerman. “Student feedback indicates that the course work is helping our students break down stereotypes and improve communication skills, especially during stressful times. They’re learning each discipline’s unique contributions and where they might overlap, and, most importantly, how to value the differences so that we can provide optimum patient care.”

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